Just to introduce myself, I am Jim Hunt and I am very pleased to have been invited by Michael to be your Finance Magnates roving reporter in the United Kingdom.
You are probably aware by now that the new NFA hedging rule has caused a lot of consternation in the industry, to say the least! If you’re not up to speed on this issue you can read all about it here on Forex Magnates or over on my blog. One side effect of the new rules is that some money has been winging it’s way from the United States over the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. You may well be considering sending some of your hard earned moolah in this direction too. Maybe your broker is even twisting your arm gently, to help you make that often difficult decision? Before you do that though think about this.
Did you know that FOREX.com is actually Gain Capital Group LLC? If you knew that did you assume Gain Capital Ltd. was behind FOREX.com in the UK, and regulated by the FSA? Think again!
I am here to help you do your own due diligence on (supposedly!) UK based brokers regulated by the Financial Services Authority (or FSA for short). Don’t just take my word for it. Always do your own research, especially where money is concerned. Verify the facts for yourself. Here’s how.
In the UK a brokerage will be incorporated as a “Limited Company”, and the company name will finish with the word “Limited”, frequently abbreviated to Ltd. All such companies have to send their paperwork every year to Companies House. If they don’t do it on time they get fined. If they leave it too much longer all sorts of other unpleasant thing can be done to the officers of the company, known as directors. This paperwork includes amongst other things the company accounts, and director and shareholder details.
Companies House also thoughtfully provide a service called WebCHeck which allows you to read all this (by now virtual) paperwork. Some is free of charge. some you have to pay a pound a pop for. They are happy to take your credit card number! To access this wondrous feast of information go to the Companies House WebCHeck page and type the name of the brokerage you are interested into the “Company Name” box, then click the “Search” button. Here’s one I did earlier:
The website highlights in yellow their best guess for the company you’re searching for. Whether they are right or wrong just click the number of the brokerage you’re interested in and all sorts of amazing things will be revealed to you. At this stage make sure to note down the full name of the company, the company number and the last line of the address, which is the postcode (the UK version of a zip code) of the company’s registered office. If you note down any dates as well please bear in mind that us Brits write dates in a strange fashion. We do it day/month/year, so 7/4/2009 is not what you’re thinking, it’s the 7th of April!
The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed by now that I didn’t choose this example entirely at random. Which of the three Gain Capitals should you click on? I strongly suggest all three. That way you have a fighting chance of working out which one will be looking after your pile of dollars when they land in London, exhausted after their arduous journey.
Next click on the link that says “Order information on this company” over on the right hand side. That will take you to a page that provides lots more nuggets of free gold, as well as the chance to purchase more detailed information. At this stage please note carefully the following Companies House disclaimer:
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Companies House is a registry of corporate information. We carry out basic checks to make sure that documents have been fully completed and signed, but we do not have the statutory power or capability to verify the accuracy of the information that corporate entities send to us. We accept all information that such entities deliver to us in good faith and place it on the public record. The fact that the information has been placed on the public record should not be taken to indicate that Companies House has verified or validated it in any way.
To put it in plain English – “If the bar stewards are economical with the truth to us, we just pass their lies on to you.”
Fear not though. The Financial Services Authority will come to the rescue! Hop on over and do a search on the FSA website. At the bottom of the page is a box entitled “By Name and Post code”. For now just type in the company name then click the “Submit” button. Most of the time this will work fine, but if you have problems you can come back later and try searching using the postcode too. Here’s what I found:
Looks like there’s only one Gain Capital authorised by the FSA. Better make sure that they are the one that’s going to be caring for your greenbacks! Now go and explore the red links near the top of the window. I hope for your sake that “Disciplinary history” is blank. Check out the “Individuals” and “Names” pages too, not forgetting to click the link that reveals any previous names. Seems like Gain Capital wasn’t always merely the UK arm of FOREX.com doesn’t it?
Finally Google those assorted company and individual names. Find anything interesting?
So there you have it. A beginners guide on how to tiptoe through the minefield that is investing offshore in the UK. Now some of you may be wondering at this stage “Where are all the answers? Where’s the research results?” To you my answer is simple.
Until next time it’s goodbye from me in sunny South West England, but I’ll see you all again very soon.